A team of astronomers recently concluded that a nearby spheroidal galaxy, designated as NGC1052-DF2, contains very little, if any, dark matter.1,2 Since Big Bang scientists use dark matter to explain how galaxies formed, this poses a potential problem for naturalistic views.
The galaxy in question, estimated to be about 65 million light-years away, has roughly the same volume as our own Milky Way galaxy, but it’s much dimmer due to a much smaller number of stars. By estimating the speeds of ten nearby objects, the team concluded that this particular galaxy had 400 times less dark matter than expected. In fact, there might not be any dark matter in this galaxy.1
Dark matter is a hypothetical form of matter that is thought to exert a gravitational force on other forms of matter but does not emit or absorb electromagnetic radiation, including visible light. For this reason, it’s thought to be totally invisible (thus the term “dark”) and detectable only by its gravitational influence on other forms of matter.
Two arguments for the existence of dark matter use Newton’s Laws of Gravity and Motion to estimate how much mass must be present within a galaxy, or cluster of galaxies, to account for the observed motions of nearby objects. But scientists can also use the light from those galaxies to estimate the amount of mass. Usually, the mass estimated from Newtonian mechanics is much more than the mass estimated by the observed light. For this reason, astronomers believe that significant amounts of invisible dark matter exist within and between galaxies.
Neither creation scientists nor secular scientists all agree on the nature of dark matter. Some doubt its existence, arguing that the inference of dark matter is based on an incomplete understanding of physics. Others are more sympathetic to the idea that a large amount of dark matter really does exist.3,4
This recent discovery of a galaxy deficient of dark matter is relevant to the creation-evolution controversy for a number of reasons. First, if the inference of dark matter is based on an incomplete understanding of how gravity behaves, what we perceive as “dark matter” should be present everywhere, without any exceptions. The fact that this particular galaxy may be an exception could be an argument that dark matter is real because its absence is being observed.
Second, secular cosmologists need dark matter to explain how galaxies supposedly formed. A galaxy without dark matter is problematic to their model. As noted by Stanford cosmologist Risa Wechsler, “In modern galaxy formation theory, our understanding is that galaxies form in a dark matter halo…. There’s a pretty tight relationship between the amount of stars that formed and the dark matter there, at least when the galaxy formed.”2 Although the team behind the discovery speculated on how this galaxy came to exist without dark matter,1 the team leader, Pieter van Dokkum acknowledged that he didn’t really like any of the concepts.2 In a similar vein, Wechsler said that it would be “stunning” if galaxies could form in the absence of dark matter.2
The third reason this is relevant to the creation-evolution debate is this discovery is a reminder that, although the Big Bang model needs dark matter for a number of reasons, dark matter is potentially problematic for the Big Bang even if it does exist.5,6 Because no one really knows what dark matter is, and because dark matter supposedly accounts for 80-85% of all the matter in the universe, the Big Bang is currently incapable of identifying most of the matter thought to exist, let alone explaining how it came to be!
Specifically, the standard theory of Big Bang nucleosynthesis (BBN), which purports to explain how the “light” chemical elements (mainly hydrogen and helium) were created shortly after the Big Bang, does not include dark matter. It is completely absent from BBN theory. Yet the ability of the Big Bang to account for these “light” elements is considered one of the main evidences for the Big Bang. But if dark matter is shown to exist, then BBN theory would need to be substantially revised to take dark matter into account. Big Bang proponents must hope that somehow the results of their previous BBN calculations (which did not take dark matter into account) would remain unaffected, so that the revised Big Bang model would still yield the correct abundances of hydrogen and helium, even though it had been revised to account for vast amounts of dark matter! Needless to say, that sounds like a theoretical long shot.
This is just one more reminder that there is much about the universe that we don’t know, and much of what secular scientists think they know may not actually be true.
- van Dokkum, P. 2018. A galaxy lacking dark matter. Nature. 555 (7698): 629-632.
- Drake, N. This Galaxy Has Almost No Dark Matter—And Scientists are Baffled. National Geographic. Posted on nationalgeographic.com March 28, 2018, accessed April 3, 2018.
- Hartnett, J. 2017. Has the dark matter mystery been solved? Creation Ministries International. Posted on creation.com April 6, 2017, accessed April 3, 2018.
- Faulkner, D. 2017. The Case for Dark Matter. Answers Research Journal. 10: 89-101.
- As discussed in the article, galaxy formation theories require the existence of dark matter, as do some theories for the formation of the supposed “first generation” of stars. Also, because Big Bang nucleosynthesis can only produce enough “ordinary” (baryonic) matter to account for about 20% of the matter thought to exist, the Big Bang needs large amounts of non-baryonic dark matter to exist, in order to keep the Big Bang model from being falsified.
- Hebert, J. 2013. Dark Matter, Sparticles, and the Big Bang. Acts & Facts. 42 (9): 17-19.
*Dr. Jake Hebert is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Stage Image: Galaxy NGC 1052-DF2
Stage Image Credit: NASA © 2018. P. van Dokkum. Used in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.